News of Otsego County

Ellen Tillapaugh

Editorial: ‘The Big Need’


‘The Big Need’

 April 21, 2022

What better time than the middle of National Volunteer Week (April 17 – 24) to take the time to salute every person who gives their time — truly our most precious commodity — to help others.

The Freeman’s Journal/Hometown Oneonta receives a few dozen press releases each week from community groups of every stripe throughout Otsego County — organizations looking out for the environment, preserving open spaces, grooming hiking trails. Groups dedicated to keeping political discourse at a civil level, encouraging citizens to vote and participate in democracy. Programs to feed the hungry, help the homeless, save and protect animals. Perform for and promote local arts and artists, help out in the schools, decorate village streets for holidays, coach Little League and soccer and basketball.

And almost as an aside, such announcements usually include some semblance of this proud statement: “[insert name] is an all-volunteer organization governed by a volunteer board of directors.”

Board of Education, town, and village governments, too, run on volunteer steam: these board members, supervisors, mayors, trustees, legislators, committee members, and appointees aren’t in it for the big paycheck. We’re humbled when imagining the amount of time and dedication these volunteers devote to a sometimes thankless task, serving a public that can be quick to judge and criticize yet take for granted the day-to-day quality of life that these volunteers make possible.

New terms begin in Cooperstown

Mayor looking past pandemic as she starts new term

Village of Cooperstown Trustees Dr. Richard Sternberg, left, and Sydney Sheehan, right, flank Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh after the three took their oaths of office for their new terms.

Village of Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh this month embarks on her third two-year term leading the village, hopeful COVID’s worst is behind but proud of the work she, the Village Board of Trustees, and Village employees were able to continue throughout the pandemic’s worst months.

“Only now in retrospect are we seeing how all-consuming COVID management was for every person in this village,” she said in a conversation with The Freeman’s Journal / Hometown Oneonta. “We had to just keep moving along as the guidance changed and the requirements shifted.”

“I’m very proud that we never laid off or furloughed employees during COVID,” she said. “We were told that we had to reduce the number of people in the offices so we had a number of people working remotely, but our Village

National award for Cooperstown volunteer

Rich McCaffery wins national honor

Rich McCaffery displays his award with Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh


After logging decades of tireless service to his community, Cooperstown’s Rich McCaffery has become only one of 100 people across the country to receive a Certificate of National Recognition as a Civic Volunteer.

“Nominating Rich for this award was an easy choice,” said Village Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh. “There is no one more deserving.”

Grace Kull Day in Cooperstown

Cooperstown celebrates “Grace Kull Day”

Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh reads the Village’s proclamation honoring Grace Kull, left, on her 100th birthday.

The Village of Cooperstown set aside March 27 as Grace Kull Day – honoring the long-time resident on the occasion of her 100th birthday and marking her decades of service to the Village.

Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh presented Mrs. Kull with a proclamation “in recognition of your decades of outstanding community and government service. The Village extends our Best Wishes, as well as

Cooperstown raises Ukraine flag at Village Hall

Cooperstown raises Ukraine flag at Village Hall

The Village of Cooperstown’s Board of Trustees voted last week to raise the Ukrainian flag alongside the United States flag at the entrance to Village Hall on Main Street, welcoming Ukrainian emigre Aliona Yezhova, her son, Joshua Echavarria, and village residents to a brief March 11 celebration of the people of Ukraine.

“It means so much to me and my family that we have been made to feel so welcome here,” said Ms. Yezhova, a physicans’ assistant who moved to the village from Queens, New York, with her son. Joshua, a sixth-grader at Cooperstown Central School, carried with him a hand-painted Ukrainian flag emblazoned with a peace sign at its center.

Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh and village trustees greeted the family on the steps of Village Hall, pledging their support for them, their relatives, and their fellow Ukrainians in the now-war-ravaged nation.

“Some of my family was able to escape to Moldova but brother-in-law stayed behind in Kyiv to fight in the reserves,” Ms. Yezhova. “That this village wants to fly Ukraine’s flag helps bring awareness and remind everyone that the country needs us all to be thinking of them and praying for them.”

She said she was able to communicate with some family members through Skype, but Russia’s invasion had tested the resiliency of the region’s infrastructure.

“I know it is hard for people in this country to deal with the higher gas prices but it is such an important way to support Ukraine,” she said. “Thank you to this community for all of your support.”

[Editor’s note: This week’s carries a letter from Aliona Yezhova; read that letter here:]

Head of US SBA tours Cooperstown with Congressman Delgado

Biden Administration Cabinet member visits Cooperstown

Tours key locations with Rep. Delgado

The head of President Joe Biden’s Small Business Administration, Isabella Casillas Guzman, spent the afternoon of Friday, March 4 in Cooperstown with Congressman Antonio Delgado hosting a tour of some of the Village’s best-known small businesses. Along with Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh and Otsego County Treasurer Allen Ruffles, the group discussed the president’s key infrastructure initiative, SBA outreach, pandemic relief and recovery, and other issues before convening a small business forum at Cooperstown Village Hall. Here, from left to right, Rep. Delgado, Mayor Tillapaugh, Baseball Hall of Fame President Josh Rawitch, and Administrator Casillas Guzman listen as Eric Strohl, Vice President of Exhibits and Collections at the Hall of Fame, shares details of the ‘women in baseball’ exhibit on permanent display at the Hall. Earlier in the afternoon, the group visited Cooperstown Distillery on Railroad Avenue and Cooperstown Bat Company on Main Street. We’ll have a full story on the afternoon coming up in the March 10 print and on-line editions of The Freeman’s Journal / Hometown Oneonta /

Baseball work stoppage could affect Cooperstown

Baseball owners’ lockout has roots in 1981’s “Split Season”

It’s late February; by now, baseball fans everywhere should be celebrating the return of pitchers and catchers to their Spring Training homes across the warmer climes of Florida and Arizona and eagerly awaiting the first at-bats of the exhibition games that prepare major leaguers for the 2022 regular season.

Baseball fans are, instead, reliving that disconcerting, Groundhog Day-type doubt that the season will begin on time thanks to the lockout owners began on December 2, 2021. Major League Baseball (MLB) comprises the ballclub owners; they’re currently negotiating with the Major League Baseball Players’ Association (MLBPA) on a wide-ranging agenda of conditions that fans hope will lead to a new collective bargaining agreement in time for the new season. The owners reportedly consider February 28 as the latest the two sides can reach an agreement without delaying Opening Day, currently scheduled for March 31.

For Cooperstown, the work stoppage brings back memories of past labor strife that brought the game to a standstill. Former village mayor Jeff Katz, author of “Split Season,” the 2015 book examining the 1981 MLBPA strike that shut down the game mid-season, said a prolonged work stoppage can hurt.

“Historically, labor stoppages have hurt Hall of Fame attendance,” he said. “It really took a dive after the big strike in 1994.”

Despite the parallels between this year’s owner-instituted lockout and the 1981 ‘split season’ described so thoroughly in his book, Mr. Katz noted new factors driving visitor draw to Cooperstown.

Village Democrats pick March slate as one trustee seeks to move future elections to November

Village Democrats pick March slate as one trustee seeks to move future elections to November

By Ted Potrikus

Cooperstown’s upcoming mayoral and trustee elections take place this year on March 15, but if one village trustee has his way, subsequent year voting would move to align with general elections held in November.

Trustee MacGuire Benton says he wants the date change to expand voter access as “democracy comes under attack across America.”

“Right now village residents can vote from noon until 9 p.m. in March and not in November when every other election is held,” Mr. Benton said. “My proposal gives six more hours for voting because we could start casting our village ballots at six in the morning on Election Day. Right now, we have no days for early voting. My proposal would give nine days of early voting.”

Greetings, Friends (with apologies to The New Yorker)

Greetings, Friends (with apologies to The New Yorker)

Greetings, Friends! The time is nigh
To bid this Covid Year good-bye.
We’ve had enough, we’ve played our parts
Stayed home alone filling Amazon carts.
And cleaning our closets and working online
Making do with our WiFi that’s not always fine.

We’ve said goodbye to some friends, to some relatives too
Our families we’ve not seen, travel’s been so taboo.
Goodbye ’21, au revoir, off you go 
Adios and kwaheri, arrivederci, adjo. 
Go away ’21! But wait! Not before
TFJ has its way with some thank-yous galore.

Village splits on dispensaries, lounges

Village splits on dispensaries, lounges

Cooperstown: In on dispensaries, out on on-site “consumption lounges.”

By not voting on a measure that would find the village opting out of allowing retail marijuana dispensaries, trustees defaulted to an automatic opt in that would allow the siting of dispensaries within village limits once New York State establishes its regulatory framework.

Separating dispensaries from on-site “consumption lounges,” the Board voted 5-2 to opt out of permitting locations within the village where smokers could legally inhale pot in a public indoor space. Trustees Hanna Bergene and Joseph Membrino cast their votes against the opt-out.

Board weighs opt out, referendum as state’s deadline approaches

Board weighs opt out, referendum as state’s deadline approaches

Some two dozen Cooperstown residents were almost evenly divided in comments during a public hearing Monday, December 6, to address a pending Board of Trustees vote that would find the Village opting out of allowing the retail sale of marijuana within Cooperstown’s borders.

New York legalized the sale of marijuana in April, and allowed local governments to choose whether they want dispensaries and lounges where customers could smoke on-site. To opt out, however, that same state law requires a local government to pass a local law no later than December 31, 2021. Failure to do so automatically opens the locality to dispensaries and lounges; those local governments that vote to opt out prior to the year-end deadline may repeal that local law through permissive referendum at a later date to allow for retail sale.

Otsego County notables fill the screen for “Roadhouse Coup” film

Otsego County notables fill the screen for “Roadhouse Coup” film

That’s versatile actor Alan Rowe Kelly portraying jailed murderer Eva Coo in “A Roadhouse Coup.” (Kevin Limiti/

By KEVIN LIMITI  • Special to

What are all these local dignitaries doing in a brothel in Oneonta?

Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh, Otsego County District Attorney John Muehl, former New York State Senator James Seward, and even Oneonta Mayor-Elect Mark Drnek are all there — all with roles in a new film about a 1930s brothel-operator-turned-murderer.

It’s an enthusiastically local affair. Among many others, Ben Guenther of Five Star Subaru and Jim Seymour, owner of the Black Oak Tavern, also had roles in the production.

Oneonta company Tandem Cage Productions screened its first trailer of “A Roadhouse Coup” at the Black Oak Tavern in Oneonta on Friday, November 12, during a party with cast and crew. The filmmakers shot scenes at recognizable locations like the Otsego County Courthouse in Cooperstown, the old Cooperstown jail, and the Armory in Oneonta.

The film tells the story of Eva Coo, owner of a brothel in Oneonta found guilty of murdering Harry “Gimpy” Wright in 1934 to collect insurance money. Mrs. Coo was sentenced to death and executed in Sing Sing Prison’s electric chair in 1935.

Cooperstown holds virtual information session on cannabis

Cooperstown holds virtual information session on cannabis

By KEVIN LIMITI • Special to

Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh and Deputy Mayor Cindy Falk held a virtual meeting on November 8 to present information about marijuana legalization in New York and how it might affect Cooperstown.

There was a PowerPoint presentation during the meeting, which was opened up to comments or questions at the end. However, no public comments or questions were made.

This meeting was held two days before a vote is to take place on whether to draft an opt-out law, on Wednesday, November 10.

New cannabis laws leave enforcement a little hazy

New cannabis laws leave enforcement a little hazy

By KEVIN LIMITI • Special to

Otsego County Sheriff’s Department confirmed this week it is investigating a local business for “gifting” marijuana but that it also is not certain of enforcement protocol.

County Sheriff Sergeant Michael Stalter called the process a “convoluted quagmire.”

“It’s a very difficult thing right now,” he said. “We’re trying to catch up on the new (marijuana possession) laws as it is.

Mayor Tillapaugh dedicates memorial tree on Brooklyn Avenue for belated Arbor Day
Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh, left, dedicates tree in memory of Dennis Tallman while his son, Kyle Tallman, and widow, Nancy Tallman, watch. (Kevin Limiti/

Mayor Tillapaugh dedicates memorial tree on Brooklyn Avenue for belated Arbor Day

By KEVIN LIMITI • Special to

Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh dedicated a tree on Brooklyn Avenue in Cooperstown in honor of Dennis Tallman, Friday, Oct. 15.

Family members of Dennis Tallman were present at the ceremony for Arbor Day, which normally runs on the last Friday of April but was delayed because of COVID.

“Dennis was an invaluable member of our Village who volunteered his time and service to make our Village a better place,” Tillapaugh said.

Dennis Tallman, who served on the village tree committee, worked to enhance “the natural beauty of our community and ensured that generations can benefit from and enjoy the trees he planted and nurtured.”

A Catalpa tree was planted in his honor which Tillapaugh said are “beautiful trees with large white flowers in Spring.”

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